“House of the Dragon” reveals the misogynistic reality of Westeros

Princess Rhaenyra stands in front of the Iron Throne, with her dragon in the background

Official HBO Max poster

Princess Rhaenyra stands in front of the Iron Throne, with her dragon in the background

The first season of the HBO spinoff show “House of the Dragon” recently concluded, giving audiences the opportunity to compare this season to the first season of its origin series, “Game of Thrones.”

“House of the Dragon” takes place nearly 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” so in a way, the show sets the stage for “Game of Thrones” in regards to House Targaryen. The series, in its entirety, will tell the story about the fall of the Targaryens.

“Game of Thrones” opens with Daenerys Targaryen and her brother, Viserys Targaryen, being the only two living Targaryens left on earth, leaving the audience to question what happened to the rest of them. This is a question that “House of the Dragon” is attempting to answer.

The shows share obvious similarities considering they stem from the same book series, “Dance of the Dragons.” and they’re both produced by HBO but let’s delve deeper into their differences and how they affect the shows’ plots.

Both shows remain politically-oriented in regards to the heir to the Iron Throne, but from completely different perspectives. One perspective coming from the King’s Hand and the other from the king’s daughter. From the very start, HoD challenges the idea of a woman being heir to the throne, which isn’t even discussed in GoT until season six when all of Cersei Lannister’s (former wife to the king) children died, leaving no one else to inherit the position but her.

It’s revealed in the first few minutes of HoD that Princess Rhaenys, daughter to former king, King Aemond, was cheated out of her succession by her cousin, Viserys, who went on to become king. At the time, it was believed that she was the rightful heir throughout the kingdom. Although it’s not explicitly stated, viewers can deduct that she was stripped of this opportunity due to her womanhood

Fast forward some years, after several attempts of producing a son, King Viserys’ wife, Lady Aemma, dies during childbirth, and their infant son dies shortly thereafter. The king was left with a single rightful heir, daughter Princess Rhaenyra, but in this misogynistic reality, naturally the kingdom searched for a new male heir to the throne being King Viserys’s brother, Daemon.

However, after a blatant act of disrespect from Daemon, King Viserys shifts the heir position from Daemon to Princess Rhaenyra, stunning many people by declaring that a woman will inherit the Iron Throne.

This story or “game” primarily consisted of inner-family gossip until the Hightowers started making moves. The King’s Hand (assistant), Otto Hightower, coerced his daughter, Alicent Hightower, to console King Viserys during his time of mourning after losing his wife.

Alicent also happened to be Princess Rhanyra’s best friend, causing a lot of tension between them when this “consolation” she participated in resulted in the courtship between Alicent and King Viserys, (Princess Rhanyra’s father).

Fast forward more years, King Viserys and Queen Alicent went on to have two sons, Aegon and Aemond (I know, confusing), however King Viserys was still fixed on Princess Rhaenyra as the heir to the throne. 

This resulted in an ongoing dialogue between Princess Rhaenyra and Princess Rhaenys (remember her) primarily discussing the probability of Princess Rhanyra actually becoming queen. Princess Rhaenys reminds Princess Rhaenyra that the only reason King Viserys is king is because the kingdom didn’t want a woman to sit on the Iron Throne. In the quote, “Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.”

Throughout the first season, tension continues to increase between Princess Rhanyra and Queen Alicent approaching the death of King Viserys. By then, the sons of Queen Alicent, Aegon and Aemond, were both of age to sit on the Iron Throne, and it was in her best interest for that to happen.

On the night of King Viserys’s death, Queen Alicent claimed that it was King Viserys’s “dying wish” that his eldest son, Aegon, becomes king. She attempted to keep this a secret from Princess Rhanyra, knowing that she would interfere with the crowning process of Aegon.

Queen Alicent attempted to silence Princess Rhaenys after she discovered their plan, resulting in her breaking free, riding her dragon, and flying away to warn Princess Rhanyra of this plan. 

The season ends on a cliffhanger with Princess Rhanyra in a blind rage after one of her sons is killed by Queen Alicent’s son, Aemond.

The plot is a drastic comparison to GoT, in that the main conflict was with the legitimacy of the throne’s heir, rather than who the heir would be.  

Although HoD is related to GoT, starting at HoD without watching GoT will not put viewers at a disadvantage since it is a prequel.

This premiere season of HoD is promising to produce an entertaining next few seasons, and according to the author of the series, George R.R. Martin said in a blog post with ForbesIt is going to take four full seasons of 10 episodes each to do justice to the Dance of the Dragons, from start to finish,” “Dance of the Dragons” being the first book in the series HoD is adapted from.

The audience is left to question, what will lead to the Targaryens inevitable downfall? Does any of this lead to the events caused by “the Mad King” that was heavily hinted at in “Game of Thrones?” Hopefully, succeeding seasons will answer these questions, beginning with season two coming out early-mid 2024.